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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
An Appalachian Twelfth Night
by Laura Hitchcock
Elizabethan English and music is believed to be most closely preserved through the immigrants who settled in the isolated Appalachian mountains. Dancing Barefoot Productions version of An Appalachian Twelfth Night returns the favor, presenting one of Shakespeare's most delightful and eloquent comedies, language intact, festooned in mountain music and performed by a Federal Theatre Project troupe in 1938 Kentucky. These projects were funded by President Franklin Roosevelt's WPA as a means of providing work for artists during the Great Depression. The present production is appropriately housed in The Globe Theatre, founded by Thad Taylor some 30 years ago as a means of keeping the Bard alive and well in Hollywood.
Robert L. Williams came up with the excellent concept and adapted it for the stage. Musical Director Rob Kendt has composed lusty original folk tunes for Rev. Karl and the Pikeville Pickers , a hillbilly band composed of two guitars, bass, zither, and washboard. He's also put the Shakespearean songs to music with plaintive effect, especially What is love? 'Tis not hereafter. which receives a sensitive interpretation from the rich voice of Sean Galuszka as Feste.
Simplicity without corny folksy clichés is the hallmark of Susan Lambert's deft direction, although she doesn't miss a chance to highlight the sly posturing of some of Shakespeare's most famous clowns, Aguecheek, Malvolio, Sir Toby Belch, Fabian and, of course, Maria.
The play's keynote is the Captain's speech to Viola beginning This is Illyria, lady , performed with devastating straightforwardness here by Patricia Ann Lamkin as a Wise Woman. It works very well, as do the 1930s dresses the women wear. Viola is quickly transposed into a newsboy's cap and corduroy jacket which make her a small rosy-cheeked urchin. Played with purity and passion by Kelly Birney, she's well matched by Susan Brindley as Olivia. Brindley has a singing voice we'd like to hear more of. Gerald Hopkins makes a winsome natural Orsino. Mary Eileen O'Donnell brings a touch of Minnie Pearl to her vigorous Maria. Gene Gillette and Andrew Elvis Miller posture effectively as Aguecheek and Malvolio, respectively, complemented by Robert L. Williams as a blustery Sir Toby Belch and Sean Galuszka as Feste. Scott Cooter McClain distinguishes the cameo role of Antonio with a strong arresting portrayal.
Peter Lovello has designed the set and costumes with warmth and versatility. Sliding doors hung mid-stage can be moved to adjust scenes. Lovello hasn't missed such 1930s details as seamed stockings, coal dust on the men and a beekeeper's hat for Olivia. Terry Enroth's lighting, reminiscent of oil lamps, complements his concept.
The Globe hasn't seen anything like this. It's one of the best and most innovative productions of Shakespeare's lyric comedy.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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